Gloucester 8, Bath 6 : Simpson-Daniel's score seals top spot

Back's brief spurt of speed settles a West Country slug-fest and pulls the plug on Bath's hopes of a Rec semi-final

Once upon a time in the west, Gloucester finishing top of the league would have allowed the city to celebrate in the time-honoured fashion. The introduction of the play-off system, much beloved by treasurers, prolongs the agony. Yesterday Gloucester, who have been the creamy head of the Guinness Premiership throughout the season, won again, but as yet they have nothing to show for it.

Their consolation here was that the hardest of victories in a full-blooded West Country derby brought them a home tie in the play-off semi-finals. Gloucester will play Leicester at Kingsholm next Sunday. The home side will not need reminding of two facts: 12 months ago Gloucester were handsome "winners" of the league but were annihilated by the Tigers at Twickenham. The other pointeris that in their previous 23 Premiership matches here Gloucester have had one defeat – against Leicester in February.

Quite what Gloucester have left is anybody's guess. Yesterday their defence was magnificent, and it needed to be against a side who the previous week had put nine tries past Saracens. The same question applies to Bath, who lost second place in the table to the highwaymen otherwise known as Wasps, which means that the London club will have home advantage against them.

The two packs waged what looked like a full-scale war, and the rest let them get on with it. There was a solitary try, scored by James Simpson-Daniel in typical fashion. There would have been more but for some brilliant last-ditch tackling and severe disruption to both teams. Matt Stevens, the baby rhino of a Bath prop who has been in the form of his life, was replaced after 32 minutes. Careering into midfield, he crashed through the centre and was galloping towards the posts when Willie Walker pulled off a try-saving – or match-winning – tackle. It would have been one of the great scores from a prop forward.

As it was, Stevens did not get up for a couple of minutes and he was then replaced, although he appeared to be in two minds about whether to go off. Bath will learn today whether the England player will be available to face Wasps.

Gloucester also suffered a blow when Mike Tindall, who rarely finishes a game these days, limped off in the 18th minute after he had been set free by Iain Balshaw's run down the left. Tindall was probably thinking of saluting the Shed when he was caught from behind by the excellent Michael Claassens.

The England centre failed to recover and was replaced by Walker, who moved to full-back with Simpson-Daniel shifting to centre and Balshaw to the wing. Simpson-Daniel is not unaccustomed to playing in midfield and he took his try, in the 30th minute, in great style, flying through the Bath defence like a shooting star. His accel-eration caused the confusion.

Gloucester might have had another try when Lesley Vaini-kolo spectacularly set up Luke Narraway, but the referee had blown for a knock-on. Otherwise the tackling was unrelenting and everybody played their part, apart from the stand-offs.

The forwards delivered on a grand scale and what the match needed was somebody to provide the inspiration. Gloucester's Ryan Lamb kicked far too often, and much of it was aimless. Simpson-Daniel had done it once and was not given the chance to do it again. The occasion even got to the much older Butch James. A World Cup winner with South Africa, he was a disappointment.

Bath have prospered by keeping the ball alive and very attractive it is too, but James kicked too much and his attempt at a match-winning drop goal produced a daisy-cutter.

"We threw everything at Gloucester but we need to be a little smarter," Michael Lipman, the flanker, said. True, and the same applies to Gloucester. Yesterday they had only victory and a home tie on their mind.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower